Interview: Tamara Leigh

One thing is certain, writers each take a different path to the publishing world. Some start very young and others end up waiting a bit. Some, like Tamara Leigh, get a four book contract to kick off their writing careers! That doesn’t mean that she didn’t work for years before that happened, but wow, wouldn’t that be something? Find out how she did it and what she’s up to now. Enjoy this interview!

What an amazing story you share on your website about turning to writing as a way to be home for the children you longed to have, and finding out on the same day that you got a four-book contract and were pregnant! That’s definitely grace at work. How long had you been writing at that time?

Goodness, you got that right—definitely grace at work. As for how long I was writing prior to receiving the contract, I can trace it back to my early teens when I wrote short stories and even tackled novel-length fiction (though very few works ever exceeded 50-100 manuscript pages). My self confidence was such that I considered publication an unattainable dream. It wasn’t until I was twenty eight and working as a speech pathologist that I returned to my love of writing in hopes of an alternate career that would allow me to stay home with the children my husband and I hoped to have. Writing during after school hours, it took about six months to write my first historical romance. Six months later, I had a contract for what would be titled Warrior Bride and three other books.

It’s quite an accomplishment to get a four-book contract right out of the gate. Any advice for other writers also looking for an agent and book deal?

In late 1992, when my Warrior Bride manuscript was complete, I went the agent route, though it wasn’t necessary since most publishers were still accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Unfortunately, slush piles are now mostly the domain of agents, and so unless you attend writer conferences and meet an editor who invites you to submit directly to them, your first task—after writing that fresh, groundbreaking novel—is to secure an agent. How do you do this? By checking out publications like Writer’s Market that lists agents and the types of books they’re looking to represent. You can also meet agents at various writer conferences. So study your craft, make your manuscript the best it can be, be professional, and find yourself an agent who believes in your writing. And, yes, right time and right place play a role too.

I like that the characters in your books are in different places when it comes to their faith. What kind of response have you received from your books from Christians?

Few things inspire my writing more than positive reader response. When I wrote for the secular market, I received wonderful feedback from readers, but the feedback from readers of my inspirational novels has blessed me further. It’s no longer just about writing a good love story that touches the heart and brightens a reader’s day, now my stories with their spiritual messages have the potential to also touch the soul. Readers have shared with me the parallels between their struggles and the struggles of my flawed characters. Some have even taken steps to change the direction of their lives in positive ways. Talk about inspiring an writer!

Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?

Nowhere, Carolina is the second book in my Southern Discomfort series, following my September 2009 release of Leaving Carolina. Maggie’s story is about the wrong choices we all make and how we rise above them. Here’s a blurb:

Maggie Pickwick is a lifetime away from her days as head cheerleader and the mistakes she made in high school. Twelve years later, this single mom has traded pompoms for an auctioneer’s gavel, popularity for peace and quiet, and strives to be a good example for her daughter, Devyn. She’s keeping it together just fine—until an old flame moves back to her little North Carolina town.

Renowned artist Reece Thorpe wants nothing to do with Maggie—not after what she did in high school—but he might also be Devyn’s father. Fed by her own pride and fear for her daughter’s happiness, Maggie finds herself on a slippery slope of white lies as she attempts to convince Reece that she’s changed But the truth has a way of making itself known, and now Maggie’s past and present mistakes could ruin her chance at love.

When readers close the cover on Nowhere, Carolina I hope they will do so with a greater desire to draw near God—to listen to Him, believe Him, and trust Him.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

I write Monday through Friday while our boys are in school. Though I’ve tried to set a daily word count goal of 1,000, it’s often discouraging. While some days are 1,000+ word days, others are 200 word days, and some are negative word days when I shift into edit mode and start cutting away the fat. Regardless, the one goal I’ve always been able to meet is my deadline, and only because I don’t contract for more than I can manage. Family time is family time.

Next up for me is the completion of the third book in my Southern Discomfort series. Sleepless in Carolina (working title) is due at my publishers in three weeks, and so I’m busy wrapping it up. With the final chapter to write and several read throughs to go (red pen in hand), I’m almost there.

Favorite authors?

I enjoy the books of Jasper Fforde, Joshilyn Jackson, Lesley Kagen, Sarah Addison Allen, and the writing team of Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn.

Book you’re currently reading?

I’m listening to the audiobook of Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey, reading Sheila Walsh’s Get Off Your Knees and Pray, and I’m about to start Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Since I’ve gone around and around with this nasty blockage several times, I do believe in it. If the cause of my writer’s block isn’t fatigue or stress, it’s due to having backed my story into a corner. I’m pretty much a “seat of the pants” writer, which works best for me; however, sometimes it sends me off track and I find that the goals of my character(s) have been left by the wayside. How do I overcome? I plunk myself in the chair day in and day out until I’ve written myself out of the corner and back on track. One book that has helped me to pinpoint where my problem lies is Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict—the one book I consistently recommend for every fiction writer.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

The measure… Writing what you love, being excited about the direction of your story, and touching the lives of others, even if your audience is only family and friends. Of course, publication doesn’t hurt either.

Where can we learn more about you?

You can find out more about my books and me at: www.tamaraleigh.com

Anything else you’d like to add?

How about a big “thank you” to Cherie for the interview! And to readers who have made my writing journey a joy. Bless you.

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